Front Page Titles (by Subject) XI: DÖLLINGER'S HISTORICAL WORK - The History of Freedom and Other Essays
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XI: DÖLLINGER’S HISTORICAL WORK - John Emerich Edward Dalberg, Lord Acton, The History of Freedom and Other Essays 
The History of Freedom and Other Essays, ed. John Neville Figgis and Reginald Vere Laurence (London: Macmillan, 1907).
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DÖLLINGER’S HISTORICAL WORK1
When first seen, at Würzburg, in the diaries of Platen the poet, Dr. Döllinger was an eager student of general literature, and especially of Schlegel and the romantic philosophy. It was an epoch in which the layman and the dilettante prevailed. In other days a divine had half a dozen distinct schools of religious thought before him, each able to develop and to satisfy a receptive mind; but the best traditions of western scholarship had died away when the young Franconian obtained a chair in the reorganised university of Munich. His own country, Bavaria, his time, the third decade of the century, furnished no guide, no master, and no model to the new professor. Exempt, by date and position, from the discipline of a theological party, he so continued, and never turned elsewhere for the dependence he escaped at home. No German theologian, of his own or other churches, bent his course; and he derived nothing from the powerful writer then dominant in the North. To a friend describing Herder as the one unprofitable classic, he replied, “Did you ever learn anything from Schleiermacher?” And if it is doubtful which way this stroke was aimed, it is certain that he saw less than others in the Berlin teacher.
Very young he knew modern languages well, though with a defective ear, and having no local or contemporary attachments he devoted himself systematically to the study of foreign divines. The characteristic universality of his later years was not the mere result of untiring energy and an unlimited command of books. His international habit sprang from the inadequacy of the national supply, and the search for truth in every century naturally became a lecturer whose function it was to unfold from first to last the entire life of the Church, whose range extended over all Christian ages, and who felt the inferiority of his own. Döllinger’s conception of the science which he was appointed to carry forward, in conformity with new requirements and new resources, differed from the average chiefly by being more thorough and comprehensive. At two points he was touched by currents of the day. Savigny, the legal expert of a school recruited from both denominations and gravitating towards Catholicism, had expounded law and society in that historic spirit which soon pervaded other sciences, and restored the significance of national custom and character. By his writings Protestant literature overlapped. The example of the conspicuous jurist served as a suggestion for divines to realise the patient process of history; and Döllinger continued to recognise him as a master and originator of true scientific methods when his influence on jurisprudence was on the wane. On the same track, Drey, in 1819, defended the theory of development as the vital prerogative of Rome over the fixity of other churches. Möhler was the pupil of Drey, and they made Tübingen the seat of a positive theology, broader and more progressive than that of Munich.
The first eminent thinker whom he saw and heard was Baader, the poorest of writers, but the most instructive and impressive talker in Germany, and the one man who appears to have influenced the direction of his mind. Bishop Martensen has described his amazing powers; and Döllinger, who remembered him with more scant esteem, bore equal testimony to the wealth and worth of his religious philosophy. He probably owed to him his persistent disparagement of Hegel, and more certainly that familiarity with the abstruse literature of mysticism which made him as clear and sure of vision in the twilight of Petrucci and St. Martin as in the congenial company of Duperron. Baader is remembered by those who abstain from sixteen volumes of discordant thought, as the inventor of that system of political insurance which became the Holy Alliance. That authority is as sacred and sovereignty as absolute in the Church as in the State, was an easy and obvious inference, and it had been lately drawn with an energy and literary point to which Baader was a stranger, by the Count de Maistre, who was moreover a student of St. Martin. When the ancient mystic welcomed his new friend, he was full of the praises of De Maistre. He impressed upon his earnest listener the importance of the books on the pope and on the Gallican church, and assured him that the spirit which animates them is the genuine Catholicism. These conversations were the origin of Döllinger’s specific ultramontanism. It governed one half of his life, and his interest in De Maistre outlasted the assent which he once gave to some of his opinions. Questions arising from the Savoyard’s indictment against Bacon, which he proposed to Liebig, formed the connection between the two laboured attacks on the founder of English philosophy.
Much of that which at any time was unhistoric or presumptive in his mind may be ascribed to this influence; and it divided him from Möhler, who was far before him in the fulness of the enjoyment of his powers and his fame, whom he survived half a century, and never ceased to venerate as the finest theological intellect he had known. The publication of the Symbolik made it difficult for the author to remain in Wirtemberg; Tübingen, he said, was a place where he could neither live nor die happy; and having made Döllinger’s acquaintance, he conceived an ardent wish to become his colleague at Munich.
Im Verkehre mit Ihnen, und dem Kreise in dem Sie leben, habe ich mich aufs anmuthigste erheitert, sittlich gestärkt, und religiös getröstet und ermuthigt gefunden; ein Verein von Einwirkungen auf mich wurde mir gewährt, deren aller ich in fast gleichein Grade bedürftig war.
Döllinger negotiated his appointment, overcame the resisting ministerial medium through the intervention of the king, and surrendered his own department of theology, which they both regarded as the most powerful agency in religious instruction. Möhler had visited Göttingen and Berlin, and recognised their superiority. A public address to Planck, praising the Protestant treatment of history, was omitted by Döllinger from the edition of his miscellaneous writings. They differed so widely that one of them hesitated to read Bossuet’s Defensio, and generally kept the stronger Gallicans out of sight, whilst the other warmly recommended Richer, and Launoy, and Dupin, and cautioned his pupils against Baronius, as a forger and a cheat, who dishonestly attributed to the primitive Church ideas quite foreign to its constitution. He found fault with his friend for undue favour to the Jesuits, and undue severity towards Jansenism. The other advised him to read Fénelon, and succeeded in modifying this opinion.
Sie werden vielleicht um so geneigter sein, mir zu verzeihen, wenn ich Ihnen melde, dass ich inzwischen recht fleissig die Jansenistischen Streitigkeiten, durch Ihre freundliche Zuschrift angeregt, studirt habe, und Ihrer Darstellung ohne Zweifel jetzt weit näher stehe als früher. Selbst die Bulle Unigenitus erscheint mir in einem weit günstigeren Lichte als früher, obschon ich die Censur mancher Quesnel’scher Sätze immer noch nicht begreifen kann. Sie schrieben mir, dass die Fénelon’sche Correspondenz einen grossen Einfluss auf Ihre Betrachtungsweise ausgeübt habe. Auch bei mir ist dieses der Fall.
But in describing the failure of scholastic theology, the exaggeration of De Maistre, the incompetence of the Roman censorship, the irreligion of Leo X., and the strength of Luther’s case against the Papacy, the sensitive Suabian made a contrast, then, and long after, with Döllinger’s disciplined coolness and reserve.
Dann war wirklich die bestehende Form der Kirche im höchsten Grade tadelhaft, und bedurfte der Reinigung. Die Päpste waren Despoten, willkührliche Herrscher geworden. Gebräuche hatten sich angehäuft, die im höchsten Grade dem Glauben und der christlichen Frömmigkeit entgegen waren. In vielen Punkten hatte Luther immer Recht, wenn er von Missbräuchen der Römischen Gewalt spricht, dass dort alles feil sei.—Tetzel verfuhr ohnediess auf die empörendste Weise, und übertrieb, mit einer religiösen Rohheit und einem Stumpfsinn ohne Gleichen, das Bedenkliche der Sache auf die äusserste Spitze.
The disagreement which made itself felt from time to time between the famous colleagues was not removed when one of them wished the other to change his confessor before his last illness.
Möhler claimed the supreme chair of ecclesiastical history as a matter of course, and by right of seniority. He apologised for venturing to supersede one who had gained distinction in that lecture-room, but he hinted that he himself was the least fit of the two for dogmatics.
Ich habe mich für die historischen Fächer entschieden. Ihr Opfer, wenn Sie Dogmatik lesen, anerkenne ich, aber ich bitte das meinige nicht zu übersehen. Welcher Entschluss, ich möchte sagen, welche Unverschämtheit ist es, nach Ihnen und bei Ihren Lebzeiten, Kirchengeschichte in München zu doziren?
Döllinger took that branch for the time, but he never afterwards taught theology proper. As Möhler, who was essentially a theologian, deserted divinity to compose inferior treatises on the gnostics and the false decretals, Döllinger, by choice and vocation a divine, having religion as the purpose of his life, judged that the loftier function, the more spiritual service, was historical teaching. The problem is to know how it came to pass that a man who was eminently intelligent and perspicuous in the exposition of doctrines, but who, in narrative, description, and knowledge of character, was neither first nor second, resolved that his mission was history.
In early life he had picked up chance copies of Baronius and Petavius, the pillars of historic theology; but the motives of his choice lay deeper. Church history had long been the weakest point and the cause of weakness among the Catholics, and it was the rising strength of the German Protestants. Therefore it was the post of danger; and it gave to a theologian the command of a public of laymen. The restoration of history coincided with the euthanasia of metaphysic; when the foremost philosophic genius of the time led over to the historic treatment both of philosophy and religion, and Hamilton, Cousin, Comte, severally converted the science into its history. Many men better equipped for speculation than for erudition went the same way; the systematic theology was kept up in the universities by the influence of Rome, where scholasticism went on untouched by the romantic transformation. Writing of England, Wiseman said: “There is still a scholastic hardness in our controversial theology, an unbendingness of outward forms in our explanations of Catholic principles, which renders our theologians dry and unattractive to the most catholicly inclined portion of our Protestants.” The choice which these youths made, towards 1830, was, though they did not know it, the beginning of a rift that widened.
Döllinger was more in earnest than others in regarding Christianity as history, and in pressing the affinity between catholic and historical thought. Systems were to him nearly as codes to Savigny, when he exhorted his contemporaries not to consolidate their law, lest, with their wisdom and knowledge, they should incorporate their delusions and their ignorance, and usurp for the state what belonged to the nation. He would send an inquiring student to the Historia Congregationis de Auxiliis and the Historia Pelagiana rather than to Molina or Lemos, and often gave the advice which, coming from Oriel, disconcerted Morris of Exeter: “I am afraid you will have to read the Jesuit Petavius.” He dreaded the predominance of great names which stop the way, and everything that interposes the notions of an epoch, a region, or a school between the Church and the observer.
To an Innsbruck professor, lamenting that there was no philosophy which he could heartily adopt, he replied that philosophies do not subsist in order to be adopted. A Thomist or a Cartesian seemed to him as a captive, or a one-armed combatant. Prizing metaphysicians for the unstrung pearls which they drop beyond the seclusion of system, he loved the disjecta membra of Coleridge, and preferred the Pensieri, and Parerga und Paralipomena to the constructed work of Gioberti and Schopenhauer. He knew Leibniz chiefly in his letters, and was perceptibly affected by his law of continuous progression, his general optimism, and his eclectic art of extracting from men and books only the good that is in them; but of monadology or pre-established harmony there was not a trace. His colleague, Schelling, no friend to the friends of Baader, stood aloof. The elder Windischmann, whom he particularly esteemed, and who acted in Germany as the interpreter of De Maistre, had hailed Hegel as a pioneer of sound philosophy, with whom he agreed both in thought and word. Döllinger had no such condescension. Hegel remained, in his eyes, the strongest of all the enemies of religion, the guide of Tübingen in its aberrations, the reasoner whose abstract dialectics made a generation of clever men incapable of facing facts. He went on preferring former historians of dogma, who were untainted by the trail of pantheism, Baumgarten-Crusius, and even Muenscher, and by no means admitted that Baur was deeper than the early Jesuits and Oratorians, or gained more than he lost by constriction in the Hegelian coil. He took pleasure in pointing out that the best recent book on the penitential system, Kliefoth’s fourth volume, owed its substance to Morinus. The dogmas of pantheistic history offended him too much to give them deep study, and he was ill prepared with counsel for a wanderer lost in the pervading haze. Hegelians said of him that he lacked the constructive unity of idea, and knew the way from effect to cause, but not from cause to law.
His own lectures on the philosophy of religion, which have left no deep furrow, have been praised by Ketteler, who was not an undiscriminating admirer. He sent on one of his pupils to Rosmini, and set another to begin metaphysics with Suarez; and when Lady Ashburton consulted him on the subject, he advised her to read Norris and Malebranche. He encouraged the study of remoter luminaries, such as Cusa and Raymundus, whose Natural Theology he preferred to the Analogy; and would not have men overlook some who are off the line, like Postel. But although he deemed it the mark of inferiority to neglect a grain of the gold of obsolete and eccentric writers, he always assigned to original speculation a subordinate place, as a good servant but a bad master, without the certainty and authority of history. What one of his English friends writes of a divine they both admired, might fitly be applied to him:
He was a disciple in the school of Bishop Butler, and had learned as a first principle to recognise the limitations of human knowledge, and the unphilosophical folly of trying to round off into finished and pretentious schemes our fragmentary yet certain notices of our own condition and of God’s dealing with it.
He alarmed Archer Gurney by saying that all hope of an understanding is at an end, if logic be applied for the rectification of dogma, and to Dr. Plummer, who acknowledged him as the most capable of modern theologians and historians, he spoke of the hopelessness of trying to discover the meaning of terms used in definitions. To his archbishop he wrote that men may discuss the mysteries of faith to the last day without avail; “we stand here on the solid ground of history, evidence, and fact.” Expressing his innermost thought, that religion exists to make men better, and that the ethical quality of dogma constitutes its value, he once said: “Tantum valet quantum ad corrigendum, purgandum, sanctificandum hominem confert.” In theology as an intellectual exercise, beyond its action on the soul, he felt less interest, and those disputes most satisfied him which can be decided by appeal to the historian.
From his early reputation and his position at the outpost, confronting Protestant science, he was expected to make up his mind over a large area of unsettled thought and disputed fact, and to be provided with an opinion—a freehold opinion of his own—and a reasoned answer to every difficulty. People had a right to know what he knew about the end of the sixteenth chapter of St. Mark, and the beginning of the eighth chapter of St. John, the lives of St. Patrick and the sources of Erigena, the author of the Imitation and of the Twelve Articles, the Nag’s Head and the Casket Letters. The suspense and poise of the mind, which is the pride and privilege of the unprofessional scholar, was forbidden him. Students could not wait for the master to complete his studies; they flocked for dry light of knowledge, for something defined and final, to their keen, grave, unemotional professor, who said sometimes more than he could be sure of, but who was not likely to abridge thought by oracular responses, or to give aphorism for argument. He accepted the necessity of the situation. A time came when everybody was invited, once a week, to put any imaginable question from the whole of Church history, and he at once replied. If this was a stimulus to exertion during the years spent in mastering and pondering the immense materials, it served less to promote originality and care than premature certitude and the craving for quick returns. Apart from the constant duty of teaching, his knowledge might not have been so extensive, but his views would have been less decided and therefore less liable to change.
As an historian, Döllinger regarded Christianity as a force more than as a doctrine, and displayed it as it expanded and became the soul of later history. It was the mission and occupation of his life to discover and to disclose how this was accomplished, and to understand the history of civilised Europe, religious and profane, mental and political, by the aid of sources which, being original and authentic, yielded certainty. In his vigorous prime, he thought that it would be within his powers to complete the narrative of the conquest of the world by Christ in a single massive work. The separated churches, the centrifugal forces, were to have been treated apart, until he adopted the ampler title of a history of Christianity. We who look back upon all that the combined and divided labour of a thousand earnest, gifted, and often instructed men has done and left undone in sixty years, can estimate the scientific level of an age where such a dream could be dreamed by such a man, misled neither by imagination nor ambition, but knowing his own limitations and the immeasurable world of books. Experience slowly taught him that he who takes all history for his province is not the man to write a compendium.
The four volumes of Church History which gave him a name in literature appeared between 1833 and 1838, and stopped short of the Reformation. In writing mainly for the horizon of seminaries, it was desirable to eschew voyages of discovery and the pathless border-land. The materials were all in print, and were the daily bread of scholars. A celebrated Anglican described Döllinger at that time as more intentional than Fleury; while Catholics objected that he was a candid friend; and Lutherans, probing deeper, observed that he resolutely held his ground wherever he could, and as resolutely abandoned every position that he found untenable. He has since said of himself that he always spoke sincerely, but that he spoke as an advocate—a sincere advocate who pleaded only for a cause which he had convinced himself was just. The cause he pleaded was the divine government of the Church, the fulfilment of the promise that it would be preserved from error, though not from sin, the uninterrupted employment of the powers committed by Christ for the salvation of man. By the absence of false arts he acquired that repute for superior integrity which caused a Tyrolese divine to speak of him as the most chivalrous of the Catholic celebrities; and the nuncio who was at Munich during the first ten years called him the “professeur le plus éclairé, le plus religieux, en un mot le plus distingué de l’université.”
Taking his survey from the elevation of general history, he gives less space to all the early heresies together than to the rise of Mohammedanism. His way lies between Neander, who cares for no institutions, and Baur, who cares for no individuals. He was entirely exempt from that impersonal idealism which Sybel laid down at the foundation of his review, which causes Delbrück to complain that Macaulay, who could see facts so well, could not see that they are revelations, which Baur defines without disguise in his Dreieinigkeitslehre: “Alle geschichtlichen Personen sind für uns blosse Namen.” The two posthumous works of Hegel which turned events into theories had not then appeared. Döllinger, setting life and action above theory, omitted the progress of doctrine. He proposed that Möhler should take that share of their common topic, and the plan, entertained at first, was interrupted, with much besides, by death. He felt too deeply the overwhelming unity of force to yield to that atomic theory which was provoked by the Hegelian excess: “L’histoire n’est pas un simple jeu d’abstractions, et les hommes y sont plus que les doctrines. Ce n’est pas une certaine théorie sur la justification et la rédemption qui a fait la Réforme: c’est Luther, c’est Calvin.” But he allows a vast scope to the variable will and character of man. The object of religion upon earth is saintliness, and its success is shown in holy individuals. He leaves law and doctrine, moving in their appointed orbits, to hold up great men and examples of Christian virtue.
Döllinger, who had in youth acted as secretary to Hohenlohe, was always reserved in his use of the supernatural. In the vision of Constantine and the rebuilding of the temple, he gives his reader both the natural explanation and the miraculous. He thought that the witness of the fathers to the continuance of miraculous powers could not be resisted without making history a priori, but later on, the more he sifted and compared authorities, the more severe he became. He deplored the uncritical credulity of the author of the Monks of the West; and, in examining the Stigmata, he cited the experience of a Spanish convent where they were so common that it became a sign of reprobation to be without them. Historians, he said, have to look for natural causes: enough will remain for the action of Providence, where we cannot penetrate. In his unfinished book on Ecclesiastical Prophecy he enumerates the illusions of mediæval saints when they spoke of the future, and describes them, as he once described Carlyle and Ruskin, as prophets having nothing to foretell. At Frankfort, where he spoilt his watch by depositing it in unexpected holy water, and it was whispered that he had put it there to mend it, everybody knew that there was hardly a Catholic in the Parliament of whom such a fable could be told with more felicitous unfitness.
For twenty years of his life at Munich, Görres was the impressive central figure of a group reputed far and wide, the most intellectual force in the Catholic world. Seeing things by the light of other days, Nippold and Maurenbrecher describe Döllinger himself as its most eminent member. There was present gain and future peril in living amongst a clever but restricted set, sheltered, supported, and restrained by friends who were united in aims and studies, who cherished their sympathies and their enmities in common, and who therefore believed that they were divided by no deep cleft or ultimate principle. Döllinger never outlived the glamour of the eloquence and ascendancy of Görres, and spoke of him long after his death as a man of real knowledge, and of greater religious than political insight. Between the imaginative rhetorician and the measured, scrutinising scholar, the contrast was wide. One of the many pupils and rare disciples of the former complained that his friend supplied interminable matter for the sterile and unavailing Mystik, in order to amuse him with ropes of sand: and the severest censure of Döllinger’s art as an historian was pronounced by Görres when he said, “I always see analogies, and you always see differences.”
At all times, but in his early studies especially, he owed much to the Italians, whose ecclesiastical literature was the first that he mastered, and predominates in his Church history. Several of his countrymen, such as Savigny and Raumer, had composed history on the shoulders of Bolognese and Lombard scholars, and some of their most conspicuous successors to the present day have lived under heavy obligations to Modena and San Marino. During the tranquil century before the Revolution, Italians studied the history of their country with diligence and success. Even such places as Parma, Verona, Brescia, became centres of obscure but faithful work. Osimo possessed annals as bulky as Rome. The story of the province of Treviso was told in twenty volumes. The antiquities of Picenum filled thirty-two folios. The best of all this national and municipal patriotism was given to the service of religion. Popes and cardinals, dioceses and parish churches became the theme of untiring enthusiasts. There too were the stupendous records of the religious orders, their bulls and charters, their biography and their bibliography. In this immense world of patient, accurate, devoted research, Döllinger laid the deep foundations of his historical knowledge. Beginning like everybody with Baronius and Muratori, he gave a large portion of his life to Noris, and to the solid and enlightened scholarship that surrounded Benedict XIV., down to the compilers, Borgia, Fantuzzi, Marini, with whom, in the evil days of regeneration by the French, the grand tradition died away. He has put on record his judgment that Orsi and Saccarelli were the best writers on the general history of the Church. Afterwards, when other layers had been superposed, and the course he took was his own, he relied much on the canonists, Ballerini and Berardi; and he commended Bianchi, De Bennettis, and the author of the anonymous Confutazione, as the strongest Roman antidote to Blondel, Buckeridge, and Barrow. Italy possessed the largest extant body of Catholic learning; the whole sphere of Church government was within its range, and it enjoyed something of the official prerogative.
Next to the Italians he gave systematic attention to the French. The conspicuous Gallicans, the Jansenists, from whom at last he derived much support, Richer, Van Espen, Launoy, whom he regarded as the original of Bossuet, Arnauld, whom he thought his superior, are absent from his pages. He never overcame his distrust of Pascal, for his methodical scepticism and his endeavour to dissociate religion from learning; and he rated high Daniel’s reply to the Provinciales. He esteemed still more the French Protestants of the seventeenth century, who transformed the system of Geneva and Dort. English theology did not come much in his way until he had made himself at home with the Italians and the primary French. Then it abounded. He gathered it in quantities on two journeys in 1851 and 1858, and he possessed the English divines in perfection, at least down to Whitby, and the nonjurors. Early acquaintance with Sir Edward Vavasour and Lord Clifford had planted a lasting prejudice in favour of the English Catholic families, which sometimes tinged his judgments. The neglected literature of the Catholics in England held a place in his scheme of thought, which it never obtained in the eyes of any other scholar, native or foreign. This was the only considerable school of divines who wrote under persecution, and were reduced to an attitude of defence. In conflict with the most learned, intelligent, and conciliatory of controversialists, they developed a remarkable spirit of moderation, discriminating inferior elements from the original and genuine growth of Catholic roots; and their several declarations and manifestoes, from the Restoration onwards, were an inexhaustible supply for irenics. Therefore they powerfully attracted one who took the words of St. Vincent of Lérins not merely for a flash of illumination, but for a scientific formula and guiding principle. Few writers interested him more deeply than Stapleton, Davenport, who anticipated Number XC., Irishmen, such as Caron and Walshe, and the Scots, Barclay, the adversary and friend of Bellarmine, Ramsay, the convert and recorder of Fénelon. It may be that, to an intellect trained in the historic process, stability, continuity, and growth were terms of more vivid and exact significance than to the doctors of Pont-à-Mousson and Lambspring. But when he came forward arrayed in the spoils of Italian libraries and German universities, with the erudition of centuries and the criticism of to-day, he sometimes was content to follow where forgotten Benedictines or Franciscans had preceded, under the later Stuarts.
He seldom quotes contemporary Germans, unless to dispute with them, prefers old books to new, and speaks of the necessary revision and renovation of history. He suspected imported views and foregone conclusions even in Neander; and although he could not say, with Macaulay, that Gieseler was a rascal, of whom he had never heard, he missed no opportunity of showing his dislike for that accomplished artificer in mosaic. Looking at the literature before him, at England, with Gibbon for its one ecclesiastical historian; at Germany, with the most profound of its divines expecting the Church to merge in the State, he inferred that its historic and organic unity would only be recognised by Catholic science, while the soundest Protestant would understand it least. In later years, Kliefoth, Ritschl, Gass, perhaps also Dorner and Uhlhorn, obliged him to modify an opinion which the entire school of Schleiermacher, including the illustrious Rothe, served only to confirm. Germany, as he found it when he began to see the world, little resembled that of his old age, when the work he had pursued for seventy years was carried forward, with knowledge and power like his own, by the best of his countrymen. The proportion of things was changed. There was a religious literature to be proud of, to rely on: other nations, other epochs, had lost their superiority. As his own people advanced, and dominated in the branches of learning to which his life was given, in everything except literary history and epigraphics, and there was no more need to look abroad, Döllinger’s cosmopolitan characteristic diminished, he was more absorbed in the national thought and work, and did not object to be called the most German of the Germans.
The idea that religious science is not so much science as religion, that it should be treated differently from other matters, so that he who treats it may rightly display his soul, flourished in his vicinity, inspiring the lives of Saint Elizabeth and Joan of Arc, Möhler’s fine lectures on the early fathers, and the book which Gratry chose to entitle a Commentary on St. Matthew. Döllinger came early to the belief that history ought to be impersonal, that the historian does well to keep out of the way, to be humble and self-denying, making it a religious duty to prevent the intrusion of all that betrays his own position and quality, his hopes and wishes. Without aspiring to the calm indifference of Ranke, he was conscious that, in early life, he had been too positive, and too eager to persuade. The Belgian scholar who, conversing with him in 1842, was reminded of Fénelon, missed the acuter angles of his character. He, who in private intercourse sometimes allowed himself to persist, to contradict, and even to baffle a bore by frankly falling asleep, would have declined the evocation of Versailles. But in reasonableness, moderation, and charity, in general culture of mind and the sense of the demands of the progress of civilisation, in the ideal church for which he lived, he was more in harmony with Fénelon than with many others who resembled him in the character of their work.
He deemed it catholic to take ideas from history, and heresy to take them into it. When men gave evidence for the opposite party, and against their own, he willingly took for impartiality what he could not always distinguish from indifference or subdivision. He felt that sincere history was the royal road to religious union, and he specially cultivated those who saw both sides. He would cite with complacency what clever Jesuits, Raynaud and Faure, said for the Reformation, Mariana and Cordara against their society. When a Rhenish Catholic and a Genevese Calvinist drew two portraits of Calvin which were virtually the same, or when, in Ficker’s revision of Böhmer, the Catholic defended the Emperor Frederic II. against the Protestant, he rejoiced as over a sign of the advent of science. As the Middle Ages, rescued from polemics by the genial and uncritical sympathy of Müller, became an object of popular study, and Royer Collard said of Villemain, Il a fait, il fait, et il fera toujours son Grégoire VII., there were Catholics who desired, by a prolonged sorites, to derive advantage from the new spirit. Wiseman consulted Döllinger for the purpose. “Will you be kind enough to write me a list of what you consider the best books for the history of the Reformation; Menzel and Buchholz I know; especially any exposing the characters of the leading reformers?” In the same frame of mind he asked him what pope there was whose good name had not been vindicated; and Döllinger’s reply, that Boniface VIII. wanted a friend, prompted both Wiseman’s article and Tosti’s book.
In politics, as in religion, he made the past a law for the present, and resisted doctrines which are ready-made, and are not derived from experience. Consequently, he undervalued work which would never have been done from disinterested motives; and there were three of his most eminent contemporaries whom he decidedly underestimated. Having known Thiers, and heard him speak, he felt profoundly the talent of the extraordinary man, before Lanfrey or Taine, Häusser and Bernhardi had so ruined his credit among Germans that Döllinger, disgusted by his advocacy, whether of the Revolution, of Napoleon, or of France, neglected his work. Stahl claims to be accounted an historian by his incomparably able book on the Church government of the Reformation. As a professor at Munich, and afterwards as a parliamentary leader at Berlin, he was always an avowed partisan. Döllinger depreciated him accordingly, and he had the mortification that certain remarks on the sovereign dialectician of European conservatism were on the point of appearing when he died. He so far made it good in his preface that the thing was forgotten when Gerlach came to see the assailant of his friend. But once, when I spoke of Stahl as the greatest man born of a Jewish mother since Titus, he thought me unjust to Disraeli.
Most of all, he misjudged Macaulay, whose German admirers are not always in the higher ranks of literature, and of whom Ranke even said that he could hardly be called an historian at all, tried by the stricter test. He had no doubt seen how his unsuggestive fixity and assurance could cramp and close a mind; and he felt more beholden to the rivals who produced d’Adda, Barillon, and Bonnet, than to the author of so many pictures and so much bootless decoration. He tendered a course of Bacon’s Essays, or of Butler’s and Newman’s Sermons, as a preservative against intemperate dogmatism. He denounced Macaulay’s indifference to the merits of the inferior cause, and desired more generous treatment of the Jacobites and the French king. He deemed it hard that a science happily delivered from the toils of religious passion should be involved in political, and made to pass from the sacristy to the lobby, by the most brilliant example in literature. To the objection that one who celebrates the victory of parliaments over monarchs, of democracy over aristocracy, of liberty over authority, declares, not the tenets of a party, but manifest destiny and the irrevocable decree, he would reply that a narrow induction is the bane of philosophy, that the ways of Providence are not inscribed on the surface of things, that religion, socialism, militarism, and revolution possibly reserve a store of cogent surprises for the economist, utilitarian, and whig.
In 1865 he was invited to prepare a new edition of his Church history. Whilst he was mustering the close ranks of folios which had satisfied a century of historians, the world had moved, and there was an increase of raw material to be measured by thousands of volumes. The archives which had been sealed with seven seals had become as necessary to the serious student as his library. Every part of his studies had suffered transformation, except the fathers, who had largely escaped the crucible, and the canon law, which had only just been caught by the historical current. He had begun when Niebuhr was lecturing at Bonn and Hegel at Berlin; before Tischendorf unfolded his first manuscript; before Baur discovered the Tübingen hypothesis in the congregation of Corinth; before Rothe had planned his treatise on the primitive church, or Ranke had begun to pluck the plums for his modern popes. Guizot had not founded the École des Chartes, and the school of method was not yet opened at Berlin. The application of instruments of precision was just beginning, and what Prynne calls the heroic study of records had scarcely molested the ancient reign of lives and chronicles. None had worked harder at his science and at himself than Döllinger; and the change around him was not greater than the change within. In his early career as a teacher of religion he had often shrunk from books which bore no stamp of orthodoxy. It was long before he read Sarpi or the Lettres Provinciales, or even Ranke’s Popes, which appeared when he was thirty-five, and which astonished him by the serene ease with which a man who knew so much touched on such delicate ground. The book which he had written in that state of mind, and with that conception of science and religion, had only a prehistoric interest for its author. He refused to reprint it, and declared that there was hardly a sentence fit to stand unchanged. He lamented that he had lost ten years of life in getting his bearings, and in learning, unaided, the most difficult craft in the world. Those years of apprenticeship without a master were the time spent on his Kirchengeschichte. The want of training remained. He could impart knowledge better than the art of learning. Thousands of his pupils have acquired connected views of religion passing through the ages, and gathered, if they were intelligent, some notion of the meaning of history; but nobody ever learnt from him the mechanism by which it is written.
Brougham advised the law-student to begin with Dante; and a distinguished physician informs us that Gibbon, Grote, and Mill made him what he is. The men to whom Döllinger owed his historic insight and who mainly helped to develop and strengthen and direct his special faculty, were not all of his own cast, or remarkable in the common description of literary talent. The assistants were countless, but the masters were few, and he looked up with extraordinary gratitude to men like Sigonius, Antonius Augustinus, Blondel, Petavius, Leibniz, Burke, and Niebuhr, who had opened the passes for him as he struggled and groped in the illimitable forest.
He interrupted his work because he found the materials too scanty for the later Middle Ages, and too copious for the Reformation. The defective account of the Albigensian theology, which he had sent to one of his translators, never appeared in German. At Paris he searched the library for the missing information, and he asked Rességuier to make inquiry for the records of the Inquisition in Languedoc, thus laying the foundations of that Sektengeschichte which he published fifty years later. Munich offered such inexhaustible supplies for the Reformation that his collections overran all bounds. He completed only that part of his plan which included Lutheranism and the sixteenth century. The third volume, published in 1848, containing the theology of the Reformation, is the most solid of his writings. He had miscalculated, not his resources, of which only a part had come into action, but the possibilities of concentration and compression. The book was left a fragment when he had to abandon his study for the Frankfort barricades.
The peculiarity of his treatment is that he contracts the Reformation into a history of the doctrine of justification. He found that this and this alone was the essential point in Luther’s mind, that he made it the basis of his argument, the motive of his separation, the root and principle of his religion. He believed that Luther was right in the cardinal importance he attributed to this doctrine in his system, and he in his turn recognised that it was the cause of all that followed, the source of the reformer’s popularity and success, the sole insurmountable obstacle to every scheme of restoration. It was also, for him, the centre and the basis of his antagonism. That was the point that he attacked when he combated Protestantism, and he held all other elements of conflict cheap in comparison, deeming that they are not invariable, or not incurable, or not supremely serious. Apart from this, there was much in Protestantism that he admired, much in its effects for which he was grateful. With the Lutheran view of imputation, Protestant and Catholic were separated by an abyss. Without it, there was no lasting reason why they should be separate at all. Against the communities that hold it he stood in order of battle, and believed that he could scarcely hit too hard. But he distinguished very broadly the religion of the reformers from the religion of Protestants. Theological science had moved away from the symbolical books, the root dogma had been repudiated and contested by the most eminent Protestants, and it was an English bishop who wrote: “Fuit haec doctrina jam a multis annis ipsissimum Reformatae Ecclesiae opprobrium ac dedecus.—Est error non levis, error putidissimus.” Since so many of the best writers resist or modify that which was the main cause, the sole ultimate cause, of disunion, it cannot be logically impossible to discover a reasonable basis for discussion. Therefore conciliation was always in his thoughts; even his Reformation was a treatise on the conditions of reunion. He long purposed to continue it, in narrower limits, as a history of that central doctrine by which Luther meant his church to stand or fall, of the reaction against it, and of its decline. In 1881, when Ritschl, the author of the chief work upon the subject, spent some days with Döllinger, he found him still full of these ideas, and possessing Luther at his fingers’ ends.
This is the reason why Protestants have found him so earnest an opponent and so warm a friend. It was this that attracted him towards Anglicans, and made very many of them admire a Roman dignitary who knew the Anglo-Catholic library better than De Lugo or Ripalda. In the same spirit he said to Pusey: “Tales cum sitis jam nostri estis,” always spoke of Newman’s Justification as the greatest masterpiece of theology that England has produced in a hundred years, and described Baxter and Wesley as the most eminent of English Protestants—meaning Wesley as he was after 1st December 1767, and Baxter as the life-long opponent of that theory which was the source and the soul of the Reformation. Several Englishmen who went to consult him—Hope Scott and Archdeacon Wilberforce—became Catholics. I know not whether he urged them. Others there were, whom he did not urge, though his influence over them might have been decisive. In a later letter to Pusey he wrote: “I am convinced by reading your Eirenicon that we are united inwardly in our religious convictions, although externally we belong to two separated churches.” He followed attentively the parallel movements that went on in his own country, and welcomed with serious respect the overtures which came to him, after 1856, from eminent historians. When they were old men, he and Ranke, whom, in hot youth, there was much to part, lived on terms of mutual goodwill. Döllinger had pronounced the theology of the Deutsche Reformation slack and trivial, and Ranke at one moment was offended by what he took for an attack on the popes, his patrimony. In 1865, after a visit to Munich, he allowed that in religion there was no dispute between them, that he had no fault to find with the Church as Döllinger understood it. He added that one of his colleagues, a divine whose learning filled him with unwonted awe, held the same opinion. Döllinger’s growing belief that an approximation of part of Germany to sentiments of conciliation was only a question of time, had much to do with his attitude in Church questions after the year 1860. If history cannot confer faith or virtue, it can clear away the misconceptions and misunderstandings that turn men against one another. With the progress of incessant study and meditation his judgment on many points underwent revision; but with regard to the Reformation the change was less than he supposed. He learnt to think more favourably of the religious influence of Protestantism, and of its efficacy in the defence of Christianity; but he thought as before of the spiritual consequences of Lutheranism proper. When people said of Luther that he does not come well out of his matrimonial advice to certain potentates, to Henry and to Philip, of his exhortations to exterminate the revolted peasantry, of his passage from a confessor of toleration to a teacher of intolerance, he would not have the most powerful conductor of religion that Christianity has produced in eighteen centuries condemned for two pages in a hundred volumes. But when he had refused the test of the weakest link, judging the man by his totals, he was not less severe on his theological ethics.
Meinerseits habe ich noch eine andre schwere Anklage gegen ihn zu erheben, nämlich die, dass er durch seine falsche Imputationslehre das sittlich-religiöse Bewusstseyn der Menschen auf zwei Jahrhunderte hinaus verwirrt und corrumpirt hat (3rd July 1888).
The revolution of 1848, during which he did not hold his professorship, brought him forward uncongenially in active public life, and gave him the means of telling the world his view of the constitution and policy of the Church, and the sense and limits of liability in which he gave his advocacy. When lecturing on canon law he was accustomed to dwell on the strict limit of all ecclesiastical authority, admitting none but spiritual powers, and invoking the maxims of pontiffs who professed themselves guardians, not masters, of the established legislation—“Canones ecclesiae solvere non possumus, qui custodes canonum sumus.” Acting on these principles, in the Paulskirche, and at Ratisbon, he vindicated Rome against the reproach of oppression, argued that society can only gain by the emancipation of the Church, as it claims no superiority over the State, and that both Gallicans and Jesuits are out of date. Addressing the bishops of Germany in secret session at Würzburg, he exhorted them to avail themselves fully of an order of things which was better than the old, and to make no professions of unconditional allegiance. He told them that freedom is the breath of the Catholic life, that it belongs to the Church of God by right divine, and that whatever they claimed must be claimed for others.
From these discourses, in which the scholar abandoned the details by which science advances for the general principles of the popular orator, the deductions of liberalism proceed as surely as the revolution from the title-page of Sieyès. It should seem that the key to his career lies there. It was natural to associate him with the men whom the early promise of a reforming pope inspired to identify the cause of free societies with the papacy which had Rosmini for an adviser, Ventura for a preacher, Gioberti for a prophet, and to conclude that he thus became a trusted representative, until the revolving years found him the champion of a vanished cause, and the Syllabus exposed the illusion and bore away his ideal. Harless once said of him that no good could be expected from a man surrounded by a ring of liberals. When Döllinger made persecution answer both for the decline of Spain and the fall of Poland, he appeared to deliver the common creed of Whigs; and he did not protest against the American who called him the acknowledged head of the liberal Catholics. His hopefulness in the midst of the movement of 1848, his ready acquiescence in the fall of ancient powers and institutions, his trust in Rome, and in the abstract rights of Germans, suggested a reminiscence of the Avenir in 1830.
Lamennais, returning with Montalembert after his appeal to Rome, met Lacordaire at Munich, and during a banquet given in their honour he learnt, privately, that he was condemned. The three friends spent that afternoon in Döllinger’s company; and it was after he had left them that Lamennais produced the encyclical and said: Dieu a parlé. Montalembert soon returned, attracted as much by Munich art as by religion or literature. The fame of the Bavarian school of Catholic thought spread in France among those who belonged to the wider circles of the Avenir; and priests and laymen followed, as to a scientific shrine. In the Mémoires d’un Royaliste Falloux has preserved, with local colour, the spirit of that pilgrimage:
Munich lui fut indiqué comme le foyer d’une grande rénovation religieuse et artistique. Quels nobles et ardents entretiens, quelle passion pour l’Eglise et pour sa cause! Rien n’a plus ressemblé aux discours d’un portique chrétien que les apologies enflammées du vieux Görres, les savantes déductions de Döllinger, la verve originale de Brentano.
Rio, who was the earliest of the travellers, describes Döllinger as he found him in 1830:
Par un privilège dont il serait difficile de citer un autre exemple, il avait la passion des études théologiques comme s’il n’avait été que prêtre, et la passion des études littéraires appliquées aux auteurs anciens et modernes comme s’il n’avait été que littérateur; à quoi il faut ajouter un autre don qu’il y aurait ingratitude à oublier, celui d’une exposition lucide, patiente et presque affectueuse, comme s’il n’avait accumulé tant de connaissances que pour avoir le plaisir de les communiquer.
For forty years he remained in correspondence with many of these early friends, who, in the educational struggle which ended with the ministry of Falloux in 1850, revived the leading maxims of the rejected master. As Lacordaire said, on his deathbed: “La parole de l’Avenir avait germé de son tombeau comme une cendre féconde.” Döllinger used to visit his former visitors in various parts of France, and at Paris he attended the salon of Madame Swetchine. One day, at the seminary, he inquired who were the most promising students; Dupanloup pointed out a youth, who was the hope of the Church, and whose name was Ernest Renan.
Although the men who were drawn to him in this way formed the largest and best-defined cluster with which he came in contact, there was more private friendship than mutual action or consultation between them. The unimpassioned German, who had no taste for ideas released from controlling fact, took little pleasure in the impetuous declamation of the Breton, and afterwards pronounced him inferior to Loyson. Neither of the men who were in the confidence of both has intimated that he made any lasting impression on Lamennais, who took leave of him without discussing the action of Rome. Döllinger never sought to renew acquaintance with Lacordaire, when he had become the most important man in the church of France. He would have a prejudice to overcome against him whom Circourt called the most ignorant man in the Academy, who believed that Erasmus ended his days at Rotterdam, unable to choose between Rome and Wittemberg, and that the Irish obtained through O’Connell the right to worship in their own way. He saw more of Dupanloup, without feeling, as deeply as Renan, the rare charm of the combative prelate. To an exacting and reflective scholar, to whom even the large volume of heavy erudition in which Rosmini defended the Cinque Piaghe seemed superficial, there was incongruity in the attention paid to one of whom he heard that he promoted the council, that he took St. Boniface for St. Wilfrid, and that he gave the memorable advice: Surtout méfiez-vous des sources. After a visit from the Bishop of Orleans he sat down in dismay to compose the most elementary of his books. Seeing the inferiority of Falloux as a historian, he never appreciated the strong will and cool brain of the statesman who overawed Tocqueville. Eckstein, the obscure but thoughtful originator of much liberal feeling among his own set, encouraged him in the habit of depreciating the attainments of the French clergy, which was confirmed by the writings of the most eminent among them, Darboy, and lasted until the appearance of Duchesne. The politics of Montalembert were so heavily charged with conservatism, that in defiance of such advisers as Lacordaire, Ravignan, and Dupanloup, he pronounced in favour of the author of the coup d’état, saying: “Je suis pour l’autorité contre la révolte”; and boasted that, in entering the Academy he had attacked the Revolution, not of ’93 but ’89, and that Guizot, who received him, had nothing to say in reply. There were many things, human and divine, on which they could not feel alike; but as the most urgent, eloquent, and persevering of his Catholic friends, gifted with knowledge and experience of affairs, and dwelling in the focus, it may be that on one critical occasion, when religion and politics intermingled, he influenced the working of Döllinger’s mind. But the plausible reading of his life which explains it by his connection with such public men as Montalembert, De Decker, and Mr. Gladstone is profoundly untrue; and those who deem him a liberal in any scientific use of the term, miss the keynote of his work.
The political party question has to be considered here, because, in fact, it is decisive. A liberal who thinks his thought out to the end without flinching is forced to certain conclusions which colour to the root every phase and scene of universal history. He believes in upward progress, because it is only recent times that have striven deliberately, and with a zeal according to knowledge, for the increase and security of freedom. He is not only tolerant of error in religion, but is specially indulgent to the less dogmatic forms of Christianity, to the sects which have restrained the churches. He is austere in judging the past, imputing not error and ignorance only, but guilt and crime, to those who, in the dark succession of ages, have resisted and retarded the growth of liberty, which he identifies with the cause of morality, and the condition of the reign of conscience. Döllinger never subjected his mighty vision of the stream of time to correction according to the principles of this unsympathising philosophy, never reconstituted the providential economy in agreement with the Whig Théodicée. He could understand the Zoroastrian simplicity of history in black and white, for he wrote: “obgleich man allerdings sagen kann, das tiefste Thema der Weltgeschichte sei der Kampf der Knechtschaft oder Gebundenheit, mit der Freiheit, auf dem intellectuellen, religiösen, politischen und socialen Gebiet.” But the scene which lay open before his mind was one of greater complexity, deeper design, and infinite intellect. He imagined a way to truth through error, and outside the Church, not through unbelief and the diminished reign of Christ. Lacordaire in the cathedral pulpit offering his thanks to Voltaire for the good gift of religious toleration, was a figure alien to his spirit. He never substituted politics for religion as the test of progress, and never admitted that they have anything like the dogmatic certainty and sovereignty of religious, or of physical, science. He had all the liberality that consists of common sense, justice, humanity, enlightenment, the wisdom of Canning or Guizot. But revolution, as the breach of continuity, as the renunciation of history, was odious to him, and he not only refused to see method in the madness of Marat, or dignity in the end of Robespierre, but believed that the best measures of Leopold, the most intelligent reformer in the era of repentant monarchy, were vitiated and frustrated by want of adaptation to custom. Common party divisions represented nothing scientific to his mind; and he was willing, like De Quincey, to accept them as corresponding halves of a necessary whole. He wished that he knew half as much as his neighbour, Mrs. Somerville; but he possessed no natural philosophy, and never acquired the emancipating habit which comes from a life spent in securing progress by shutting one’s eyes to the past. “Alle Wissenschaft steht und ruht auf ihrer historischen Entwicklung, sie lebt von ihrer traditionellen Vergangenheit, wie der Baum von seiner Wurzel.”
He was moved, not by the gleam of reform after the conclave of Pius IX., but by Pius VII. The impression made upon him by the character of that pope, and his resistance to Napoleon, had much to do with his resolution to become a priest. He took orders in the Church in the days of revival, as it issued from oppression and the eclipse of hierarchy; and he entered its service in the spirit of Sailer, Cheverus, and Doyle. The mark of that time never left him. When Newman asked him what he would say of the Pope’s journey to Paris, for the coronation of the emperor, he hardly recognised the point of the question. He opposed, in 1853, the renewal of that precedent; but to the end he never felt what people mean when they remark on the proximity of Notre-Dame to Vincennes.
Döllinger was too much absorbed in distant events to be always a close observer of what went on near him; and he was, therefore, not so much influenced by contact with contemporary history as men who were less entirely at home in other centuries. He knew about all that could be known of the ninth: in the nineteenth his superiority deserted him. Though he informed himself assiduously his thoughts were not there. He collected from Hormayr, Radowitz, Capponi, much secret matter of the last generation; and where Brewer had told him about Oxford, and Plantier about Louis Philippe, there were landmarks, as when Knoblecher, the missionary, set down Krophi and Mophi on his map of Africa. He deferred, at once, to the competent authority. He consulted his able colleague Hermann on all points of political economy, and used his advice when he wrote about England. Having satisfied himself, he would not reopen these questions, when, after Hermann’s death, he spent some time in the society of Roscher, a not less eminent economist, and of all men the one who most resembled himself in the historian’s faculty of rethinking the thoughts and realising the knowledge, the ignorance, the experience, the illusions of a given time.
He had lived in many cities, and had known many important men; he had sat in three parliamentary assemblies, had drawn constitutional amendments, had been consulted upon the policy and the making of ministries, and had declined political office; but as an authority on recent history he was scarcely equal to himself. Once it became his duty to sketch the character of a prince whom he had known. There was a report that this sovereign had only been dissuaded from changing his religion and abolishing the constitution by the advice of an archbishop and of a famous parliamentary jurist; and the point of the story was that the Protestant doctrinaire had prevented the change of religion, and the archbishop had preserved the constitution. It was too early to elucidate these court mysteries; instead of which there is a remarkable conversation about religion, wherein it is not always clear whether the prince is speaking, or the professor, or Schelling.
Although he had been translated into several languages and was widely known in his own country, he had not yet built himself a European name. At Oxford, in 1851, when James Mozley asked whom he would like to see, he said, the men who had written in the Christian Remembrancer on Dante and Luther. Mozley was himself one of the two, and he introduced him to the other at Oriel. After thirty-two years, when the writer on Dante occupied a high position in the Church and had narrowly escaped the highest, that visit was returned. But he had no idea that he had once received Döllinger in his college rooms, and hardly believed it when told. In Germany, the serried learning of the Reformation, the author’s energy and decisiveness in public assemblies, caused him to stand forth as an accepted spokesman, and, for a season, threw back the reticent explorer, steering between the shallows of anger and affection.
In that stage the Philosophumena found him, and induced him to write a book of controversy in the shape of history. Here was an anonymous person who, as Newman described it, “calls one pope a weak and venal dunce, and another a sacrilegious swindler, an infamous convict, and an heresiarch ex cathedrâ.” In the Munich Faculty there was a divine who affirmed that the Church would never get over it. Döllinger undertook to vindicate the insulted See of Rome; and he was glad of the opportunity to strike a blow at three conspicuous men of whom he thought ill in point both of science and religion. He spoke of Gieseler as the flattest and most leathern of historians; he accused Baur of frivolity and want of theological conviction; and he wished that he knew as many circumlocutions for untruth as there are Arabian synonyms for a camel, that he might do justice to Bunsen without violation of courtesy. The weight of the new testimony depended on the discovery of the author. Adversaries had assigned it to Hippolytus, the foremost European writer of the time, venerated as a saint and a father of the Church. Döllinger thought them right, and he justified his sincerity by giving further reasons for a conclusion which made his task formidable even for such dexterity as his own. Having thus made a concession which was not absolutely inevitable, he resisted the inference with such richness of illustration that the fears of the doubting colleague were appeased. In France, by Pitra’s influence, the book was reviewed without making known that it supported the authorship of Hippolytus, which is still disputed by some impartial critics, and was always rejected by Newman. Hippolytus und Kallistus, the high-water mark of Döllinger’s official assent and concurrence, came out in 1853. His next book showed the ebb.
He came originally from the romantic school, where history was honeycombed with imagination and conjecture; and the first important book he gave to a pupil in 1850 was Creuzer’s Mythology. In 1845 he denounced the rationalism of Lobeck in investigating the Mysteries; but in 1857 he preferred him as a guide to those who proceed by analogy. With increase of knowledge had come increase of restraining caution and sagacity. The critical acumen was not greater in the Vorhalle that when he wrote on the Philosophumena, but instead of being employed in a chosen cause, upon fixed lines, for welcome ends, it is applied impartially. Ernst von Lasaulx, a man of rich and noble intellect, was lecturing next door on the philosophy and religion of Greece, and everybody heard about his indistinct mixture of dates and authorities, and the spell which his unchastened idealism cast over students. Lasaulx, who brilliantly carried on the tradition of Creuzer, who had tasted of the mythology of Schelling, who was son-in-law to Baader and nephew to Görres, wrote a volume on the fall of Hellenism which he brought in manuscript and read to Döllinger at a sitting. The effect on the dissenting mind of the hearer was a warning; and there is reason to date from those two hours in 1853 a more severe use of materials, and a stricter notion of the influence which the end of an inquiry may lawfully exert on the pursuit of it.
Heidenthum und Judenthum, which came out in 1857, gave Lasaulx his revenge. It is the most positive and self-denying of histories, and owes nothing to the fancy. The author refused the aid of Scandinavia to illustrate German mythology, and he was rewarded long after, when Caspari of Christiania and Conrad Maurer met at his table and confirmed the discoveries of Bugge. But the account of Paganism ends with a significant parallel. In December 69 a torch flung by a soldier burnt the temple on the Capitol to the ground. In August 70 another Roman soldier set fire to the temple on Mount Sion. The two sanctuaries perished within a year, making way for the faith of men still hidden in the back streets of Rome. When the Hellenist read this passage it struck him deeply. Then he declared that it was hollow. All was over at Jerusalem; but at Rome the ruin was restored, and the smoke of sacrifice went up for centuries to come from the altar of Capitoline Jove.
In this work, designed as an introduction to Christian history, the apologist betrays himself when he says that no Greek ever objected to slavery, and when, out of 730 pages on paganism, half a page is allotted to the moral system of Aristotle. That his Aristotelian chapter was weak, the author knew; but he said that it was not his text to make more of it. He did not mean that a Christian divine may be better employed than in doing honour to a heathen; but, having to narrate events and the action of causes, he regarded Christianity more as an organism employing sacramental powers than as a body of speculative ideas. To cast up the total of moral and religious knowledge attained by Seneca, Epictetus, and Plutarch, to measure the line and rate of progress since Socrates, to compare the point reached by Hermas and Justin, is an inquiry of the highest interest for writers yet to come. But the quantitative difference of acquired precept between the later pagan and the early Christian is not the key to the future. The true problem is to expose the ills and errors which Christ, the Healer, came to remove. The measure must be taken from the depth of evil from which Christianity had to rescue mankind, and its history is more than a continued history of philosophical theories. Newman, who sometimes agreed with Döllinger in the letter, but seldom in the spirit, and who distrusted him as a man in whom the divine lived at the mercy of the scholar, and whose burden of superfluous learning blunted the point and the edge of his mind, so much liked what he heard of this book that, being unable to read it, he had it translated at the Oratory.
The work thus heralded never went beyond the first volume, completed in the autumn of 1860, which was received by the Kirchenzeitung of Berlin as the most acceptable narrative of the founding of Christianity, and as the largest concession ever made by a Catholic divine. The author, following the ancient ways, and taking, with Reuss, the New Testament as it stands, made no attempt to establish the position against modern criticism. Up to this, prescription and tradition held the first place in his writings, and formed his vantage-ground in all controversy. His energy in upholding the past as the rule and measure of the future distinguished him even among writers of his own communion. In Christenthum und Kirche he explained his theory of development, under which flag the notion of progress penetrates into theology, and which he held as firmly as the balancing element of perpetuity: “In dem Maass als dogmenhistorische Studien mehr getrieben werden, wird die absolute innere Nothwendigkeit und Wahrheit der Sache immer allgemeiner einleuchten.” He conceived no bounds to the unforeseen resources of Christian thought and faith. A philosopher in whose works he would not have expected to find the scientific expression of his own idea, has a passage bearing close analogy to what he was putting forward in 1861:
It is then in the change to a higher state of form or composition that development differs from growth. We must carefully distinguish development from mere increase; it is the acquiring, not of greater bulk, but of new forms and structures, which are adapted to higher conditions of existence.
It is the distinction which Uhhorn draws between the terms Entfaltung and Entwickelung. Just then, after sixteen years spent in the Church of Rome, Newman was inclined to guard and narrow his theory. On the one hand he taught that the enactments and decisions of ecclesiastical law are made on principles and by virtue of prerogatives which jam antea latitavere in the Church of the apostles and fathers. But he thought that a divine of the second century on seeing the Roman catechism, would have recognised his own belief in it, without surprise, as soon as he understood its meaning. He once wrote: “If I have said more than this, I think I have not worked out my meaning, and was confused—whether the minute facts of history will bear me out in this view, I leave to others to determine.” Döllinger would have feared to adopt a view for its own sake, without knowing how it would be borne out by the minute facts of history. His own theory of development had not the same ingenious simplicity, and he thought Newman’s brilliant book unsound in detail. But he took high ground in asserting the undeviating fidelity of Catholicism to its principle. In this, his last book on the Primitive Church, as in his early lectures, he claims the unswerving unity of faith as a divine prerogative. In a memorable passage of the Symbolik Möhler had stated that there is no better security than the law which pervades human society, which preserves harmony and consistency in national character, which makes Lutheranism perpetually true to Luther, and Islamism to the Koran.
Speaking in the name of his own university, the rector described him as a receptive genius. Part of his career displays a quality of assimilation, acquiescence, and even adaptation, not always consistent with superior originality or intense force of character. His Reformation, the strongest book, with the Symbolik, which Catholics had produced in the century, was laid down on known lines, and scarcely effected so much novelty and change as the writings of Kampschulte and Kolde. His book on the first age of the Church takes the critical points as settled, without special discussion. He appeared to receive impulse and direction, limit and colour, from his outer life. His importance was achieved by the force within. Circumstances only conspired to mould a giant of commonplace excellence and average ideas, and their influence on his view of history might long be traced. No man of like spirituality, of equal belief in the supreme dignity of conscience, systematically allowed as much as he did for the empire of chance surroundings and the action of home, and school, and place of worship upon conduct. He must have known that his own mind and character as an historian was not formed by effort and design. From early impressions, and a life spent, to his fiftieth year, in a rather unvaried professional circle, he contracted homely habits in estimating objects of the greater world; and his imagination was not prone to vast proportions and wide horizons. He inclined to apply the rules and observation of domestic life to public affairs, to reduce the level of the heroic and sublime; and history, in his hands, lost something both in terror and in grandeur. He acquired his art in the long study of earlier times, where materials are scanty. All that can be known of Cæsar or Charlemagne, or Gregory VII., would hold in a dozen volumes; a library would not be sufficient for Charles V. or Lewis XVI. Extremely few of the ancients are really known to us in detail, as we know Socrates, or Cicero, or St. Augustine. But in modern times, since Petrarca, there are at least two thousand actors on the public stage whom we see by the revelations of private correspondence. Besides letters that were meant to be burnt, there are a man’s secret diaries, his autobiography and table-talk, the recollections of his friends, self-betraying notes on the margins of books, the report of his trial if he is a culprit, and the evidence for beatification if he is a saint. Here we are on a different footing, and we practise a different art when dealing with Phocion or Dunstan, or with Richelieu or Swift. In one case we remain perforce on the surface of character, which we have not the means of analysing: we have to be content with conjecture, with probable explanations and obvious motives. We must constantly allow the benefit of the doubt, and reserve sentence. The science of character comes in with modern history. Döllinger had lived too long in the ages during which men are seen mostly in outline, and never applied an historical psychology distinct from that of private experience. Great men are something different from an enlarged repetition of average and familiar types, and the working and motive of their minds is in many instances the exact contrary of ordinary men, living to avoid contingencies of danger, and pain, and sacrifice, and the weariness of constant thinking and far-seeing precaution.
We are apt to judge extraordinary men by our own standard, that is to say, we often suppose them to possess, in an extraordinary degree, those qualities which we are conscious of in ourselves or others. This is the easiest way of conceiving their characters, but not the truest. They differ in kind rather than in degree.
We cannot understand Cromwell or Shaftesbury, Sunderland or Penn, by studies made in the parish. The study of intricate and subtle character was not habitual with Döllinger, and the result was an extreme dread of unnecessary condemnation. He resented being told that Ferdinand I. and II., that Henry III. and Lewis XIII., were, in the coarse terms of common life, assassins; that Elizabeth tried to have Mary made away with, and that Mary, in matters of that kind, had no greater scruples; that William III. ordered the extirpation of a clan, and rewarded the murderers as he had rewarded those of De Witt; that Lewis XIV. sent a man to kill him, and James II. was privy to the Assassination Plot. When he met men less mercifully given than himself, he said that they were hanging judges with a Malthusian propensity to repress the growth of population. This indefinite generosity did not disappear when he had long outgrown its early cause. It was revived, and his view of history was deeply modified, in the course of the great change in his attitude in the Church which took place between the years 1861 and 1867.
Döllinger used to commemorate his visit to Rome in 1857 as an epoch of emancipation. He had occasionally been denounced; and a keen eye had detected latent pantheism in his Vorhalle, but he had not been formally censured. If he had once asserted the value of nationality in the Church, he was vehement against it in religion; and if he had joined in deprecating the dogmatic decree in 1854, he was silent afterwards. By Protestants he was still avoided as the head and front of offending ultramontanism; and when the historical commission was instituted at Munich, by disciples of the Berlin school, he was passed over at first, and afterwards opposed. When public matters took him to Berlin in 1857, he sought no intercourse with the divines of the faculty. The common idea of his Reformation was expressed by Kaulbach in a drawing which represented the four chief reformers riding on one horse, pursued by a scavenger with the unmistakable features of their historian. He was received with civility at Rome, if not with cordiality. The pope sent to Cesena for a manuscript which it was reported that he wished to consult; and his days were spent profitably between the Minerva and the Vatican, where he was initiated in the mysteries of Galileo’s tower. It was his fortune to have for pilot and instructor a prelate classified in the pigeon-holes of the Wilhelmsstrasse as the chief agitator against the State, “dessen umfangreiches Wissen noch durch dessen Feinheit und geistige Gewandtheit übertroffen wird.” He was welcomed by Passaglia and Schrader at the Collegio Romano, and enjoyed the privilege of examining San Callisto with De Rossi for his guide. His personal experience was agreeable, though he strove unsuccessfully to prevent the condemnation of two of his colleagues by the Index.
There have been men connected with him who knew Rome in his time, and whose knowledge moved them to indignation and despair. One bishop assured him that the Christian religion was extinct there, and only survived in its forms; and an important ecclesiastic on the spot wrote: Delenda est Carthago. The archives of the Culturkampf contain a despatch from a Protestant statesman sometime his friend, urging his government to deal with the Papacy as they would deal with Dahomey. Döllinger’s impression on his journey was very different. He did not come away charged with visions of scandal in the spiritual order, of suffering in the temporal, or of tyranny in either. He was never in contact with the sinister side of things. Theiner’s Life of Clement the Fourteenth failed to convince him, and he listened incredulously to his indictment of the Jesuits. Eight years later Theiner wrote to him that he hoped they would now agree better on that subject than when they discussed it in Rome. “Ich freue mich, dass Sie jetzt erkennen, dass mein Urtheil über die Jesuiten und ihr Wirken gerecht war.—Im kommenden Jahr, so Gott will, werden wir uns hoffentlich besser verstehen als im Jahr 1857.” He thought the governing body unequal to the task of ruling both Church and State; but it was the State that seemed to him to suffer from the combination. He was anxious about the political future, not about the future of religion. The persuasion that government by priests could not maintain itself in the world as it is, grew in force and definiteness as he meditated at home on the things he had seen and heard. He was despondent and apprehensive; but he had no suspicion of what was then so near. In the summer of 1859, as the sequel of Solferino began to unfold itself, he thought of making his observations known. In November a friend wrote: “Je ne me dissimule aucune des misères de tout ordre qui vous ont frappé à Rome.” For more than a year he remained silent and uncertain, watching the use France would make of the irresistible authority acquired by the defeat of Austria and the collapse of government in Central Italy.
The war of 1859, portending danger to the temporal power, disclosed divided counsels. The episcopate supported the papal sovereignty, and a voluntary tribute, which in a few years took shape in tens of millions, poured into the treasury of St. Peter. A time followed during which the Papacy endeavoured, by a series of connected measures, to preserve its political authority through the aid of its spiritual. Some of the most enlightened Catholics, Dupanloup and Montalembert, proclaimed a sort of holy war. Some of the most enlightened Protestants, Guizot and Leo, defended the Roman government, as the most legitimate, venerable, and necessary of governments. In Italy there were ecclesiastics like Liverani, Tosti, Capecelatro, who believed with Manzoni that there could be no deliverance without unity, or calculated that political loss might be religious gain. Passaglia, the most celebrated Jesuit living, and a confidential adviser of the pope, both in dogma and in the preparation of the Syllabus, until Perrone refused to meet him, quitted the Society, and then fled from Rome, leaving the Inquisition in possession of his papers, in order to combat the use of theology in defence of the temporal power. Forty thousand priests, he said, publicly or privately agreed with him; and the diplomatists reported the names of nine cardinals who were ready to make terms with Italian unity, of which the pope himself said: “Ce serait un beau rêve.” In this country, Newman did not share the animosity of conservatives against Napoleon III. and his action in Italy. When the flood, rising, reached the papal throne, he preserved an embarrassed silence, refusing, in spite of much solicitation, to commit himself even in private. An impatient M.P. took the train down to Edgbaston, and began, trying to draw him: “What times we live in, Father Newman! Look at all that is going on in Italy.”—“Yes, indeed! And look at China too, and New Zealand!” Lacordaire favoured the cause of the Italians more openly, in spite of his Paris associates. He hoped, by federation, to save the interests of the Holy See, but he was reconciled to the loss of provinces, and he required religious liberty at Rome. Lamoricière was defeated in September 1860, and in February the fortress of Gaëta, which had become the last Roman outwork, fell. Then Lacordaire, disturbed in his reasoning by the logic of events, and by an earnest appeal to his priestly conscience, as his biographer says: “ébranlé un moment par une lettre éloquente,” broke away from his friends:—
Que Montalembert, notre ami commun, ne voie pas dans ce qui se passe en Italie, sauf le mal, un progrès sensible dans ce que nous avons toujours cru le bien de l’église, cela tient à sa nature passionnée. Ce qui le domine aujourd’hui c’est la haine du gouvernement français. — Dieu se sert de tout, même du despotisme, même de l’égoïsme; et il y a même des choses qu’il ne peut accomplir par des mains tout à fait pures. — Qu’y puis-je? Me déclarer contre l’Italie parce que ses chaînes tombent mal à propos? Non assurément: je laisse à d’autres une passion aussi profonde, et j’aime mieux accepter ce que j’estime un bien de quelque part qu’il vienne. — Il est vrai que la situation temporelle du Pape souffre présentement de la libération de l’Italie, et peut-être en souffrira-t-elle encore assez longtemps: mais c’est un malheur qui a aussi ses fins dans la politique mystérieuse de la Providence. Souffrir n’est pas mourir, c’est quelquefois expier et s’éclairer.
This was written on 22nd February 1861. In April Döllinger spoke on the Roman question in the Odeon at Munich, and explained himself more fully in the autumn, in the most popular of all his books.
The argument of Kirche und Kirchen was, that the churches which are without the pope drift into many troubles, and maintain themselves at a manifest disadvantage, whereas the church which energetically preserves the principle of unity has a vast superiority which would prevail, but for its disabling and discrediting failure in civil government. That government seemed to him as legitimate as any in the world, and so needful to those for whose sake it was instituted, that if it should be overthrown, it would, by irresistible necessity, be restored. Those for whose sake it was instituted were, not the Roman people, but the catholic world. That interest, while it lasted, was so sacred, that no sacrifice was too great to preserve it, not even the exclusion of the clerical order from secular office.
The book was an appeal to Catholics to save the papal government by the only possible remedy, and to rescue the Roman people from falling under what the author deemed a tyranny like that of the Convention. He had acquired his politics in the atmosphere of 1847, from the potential liberality of men like Radowitz, who declared that he would postpone every political or national interest to that of the Church, Capponi, the last Italian federalist, and Tocqueville, the minister who occupied Rome. His object was not materially different from that of Antonelli and Mérode, but he sought it by exposing the faults of the papal government during several centuries, and the hopelessness of all efforts to save it from the Revolution unless reformed. He wrote to an English minister that it could not be our policy that the head of the Catholic Church should be subject to a foreign potentate:—
Das harte Wort, mit welchem Sie im Parlamente den Stab über Rom gebrochen haben — hopelessly incurable, oder incorrigible,—kann ich mir nicht aneignen; ich hoffe vielmehr, wie ich es in dem Buche dargelegt habe, das Gegentheil. An die Dauerhaftigkeit eines ganz Italien umfassenden Piemontesisch-Italiänischen Reiches glaube ich nicht.—Inzwischen tröste ich mich mit dem Gedanken, dass in Rom zuletzt doch vexatio dabit intellectum, und dann wird noch alles gut werden.
To these grateful vaticinations his correspondent replied:—
You have exhibited the gradual departure of the government in the states of the church from all those conditions which made it tolerable to the sense and reason of mankind, and have, I think, completely justified, in principle if not in all the facts, the conduct of those who have determined to do away with it.
The policy of exalting the spiritual authority though at the expense of sacrifices in the temporal, the moderation even in the catalogue of faults, the side blow at the Protestants, filling more than half the volume, disarmed for a moment the resentment of outraged Rome. The Pope, on a report from Theiner, spoke of the book as one that might do good. Others said that it was pointless, that its point was not where the author meant it to be, that the handle was sharper than the blade. It was made much more clear that the Pope had governed badly than that Russia or Great Britain would gain by his supremacy. The cold analysis, the diagnosis by the bedside of the sufferer, was not the work of an observer dazzled by admiration or blinded by affection. It was a step, a first unconscious, unpremeditated step, in the process of detachment. The historian here began to prevail over the divine, and to judge Church matters by a law which was not given from the altar. It was the outcome of a spirit which had been in him from the beginning. His English translator had uttered a mild protest against his severe treatment of popes. His censure of the Reformation had been not as that of Bossuet, but as that of Baxter and Bull. In 1845 Mr. Gladstone remarked that he would answer every objection, but never proselytised. In 1848 he rested the claims of the Church on the common law, and bade the hierarchy remember that national character is above free will: “Die Nationalität ist etwas der Freiheit des menschlichen Willens entrücktes, geheimnissvolles und in ihrem letzen Grunde selbst etwas von Gott gewolltes.” In his Hippolytus he began by surrendering the main point, that a man who so vilified the papacy might yet be an undisputed saint. In the Vorhalle he flung away a favourite argument, by avowing that paganism developed by its own lines and laws, untouched by Christianity, until the second century; and as with the Gentiles, so with the sects; he taught, in the suppressed chapter of his history, that their doctrines followed a normal course. And he believed so far in the providential mission of Protestantism, that it was idle to talk of reconciliation until it had borne all its fruit. He exasperated a Munich colleague by refusing to pronounce whether Gregory and Innocent had the right to depose emperors, or Otho and Henry to depose popes; for he thought that historians should not fit theories to facts, but should be content with showing how things worked. Much secret and suppressed antagonism found vent in 1858, when one who had been his assistant in writing the Reformation and was still his friend, declared that he would be a heretic whenever he found a backing.
Those with whom he actively coalesced felt at times that he was incalculable, that he pursued a separate line, and was always learning, whilst others busied themselves less with the unknown. This note of distinctness and solitude set him apart from those about him, during his intimacy with the most catholic of Anglican prelates, Forbes, and with the lamented Liddon. And it appeared still more when the denominational barrier of his sympathy was no longer marked, and he, who had stood in the rank almost with De Maistre and Perrone, found himself acting for the same ends with their enemies, when he delivered a studied eulogy on Mignet, exalted the authority of Laurent in religious history and of Ferrari in civil, and urged the Bavarian academy to elect Taine, as a writer who had but one rival in France, leaving it to uncertain conjecture whether the man he meant was Renan. In theory it was his maxim that a man should guard against his friends. When he first addressed the university as Rector, saying that as the opportunity might never come again, he would employ it to utter the thoughts closest to his heart, he exhorted the students to be always true to their convictions and not to yield to surroundings; and he invoked, rightly or wrongly, the example of Burke, his favourite among public men, who, turning from his associates to obey the light within, carried the nation with him. A gap was apparent now between the spirit in which he devoted himself to the service of his Church and that of the men whom he most esteemed. At that time he was nearly the only German who knew Newman well and appreciated the grace and force of his mind. But Newman, even when he was angry, assiduously distinguished the pontiff from his court:
There will necessarily always be round the Pope second-rate people, who are not subjects of that supernatural wisdom which is his prerogative. For myself, certainly I have found myself in a different atmosphere, when I have left the Curia for the Pope himself.
Montalembert protested that there were things in Kirche und Kirchen which he would not have liked to say in public:
Il est certain que la seconde partie de votre livre déplaira beaucoup, non seulement à Rome, mais encore à la très grande majorité des Catholiques. Je ne sais donc pas si, dans le cas où vous m’eussiez consulté préalablement, j’aurais eu le courage d’infliger cette blessure à mon père et à mes frères.
Döllinger judged that the prerogative even of natural wisdom was often wanting in the government of the Church; and the sense of personal attachment, if he ever entertained it, had worn away in the friction and familiarity of centuries.
After the disturbing interlude of the Roman question he did not resume the history of Christianity. The second century with its fragments of information, its scope for piercing and conjecture, he left to Lightfoot. With increasing years he lost the disposition to travel on common ground, impregnably occupied by specialists, where he had nothing of his own to tell; and he preferred to work where he could be a pathfinder. Problems of Church government had come to the front, and he proposed to retraverse his subject, narrowing it into a history of the papacy. He began by securing his foundations and eliminating legend. He found so much that was legendary that his critical preliminaries took the shape of a history of fables relating to the papacy. Many of these were harmless: others were devised for a purpose, and he fixed his attention more and more on those which were the work of design. The question, how far the persistent production of spurious matter had permanently affected the genuine constitution and theology of the Church arose before his mind as he composed the Papstfabeln des Mittelalters. He indicated the problem without discussing it. The matter of the volume was generally neutral, but its threatening import was perceived, and twenty-one hostile critics sent reviews of it to one theological journal.
Since he first wrote on these matters, thirty years earlier, the advance of competitive learning had made it a necessity to revise statements by all accessible lights, and to subject authorities to a closer scrutiny. The increase in the rigour of the obligation might be measured by Tischendorf, who, after renewing the text of the New Testament in seven editions, had more than three thousand changes to make in the eighth. The old pacific superficial method yielded no longer what would be accepted as certain knowledge. Having made himself master of the reconstructive process that was carried on a little apart from the main chain of durable literature, in academic transactions, in dissertations and periodicals, he submitted the materials he was about to use to the exigencies of the day. Without it, he would have remained a man of the last generation, distanced by every disciple of the new learning. He went to work with nothing but his trained and organised common sense, starting from no theory, and aiming at no conclusion. If he was beyond his contemporaries in the mass of expedient knowledge, he was not before them in the strictness of his tests, or in sharpness or boldness in applying them. He was abreast as a critic, he was not ahead. He did not innovate. The parallel studies of the time kept pace with his; and his judgments are those which are accepted generally. His critical mind was pliant, to assent where he must, to reject where he must, and to doubt where he must. His submission to external testimony appeared in his panegyric of our Indian empire, where he overstated the increase of population. Informed of his error by one of his translators, he replied that the figures had seemed incredible also to him, but having verified, he found the statement so positively made that he did not venture to depart from it. If inclination ever swayed his judgment, it was in his despair of extracting a real available Buddha from the fables of Southern India, which was conquered at last by the ablest of Mommsen’s pupils.
He was less apprehensive than most of his English friends in questions relating to the Old Testament; and in the New, he was disposed, at times, to allow some force to Muratori’s fragment as to the person of the evangelist who is least favourable to St. Peter; and was puzzled at the zeal of the Speaker’s commentator as to the second epistle of the apostle. He held to the epistles of St. Ignatius with the tenacity of a Caroline prelate, and was grateful to De Rossi for a chronological point in their favour. He rejected the attacks of Lucius on the most valued passages in Philo, and stood with Gass against Weingarten’s argument on the life of St. Anthony and the origin of Monasticism. He resisted Overbeck on the epistle to Diognetus, and thought Ebrard all astray as to the Culdees. There was no conservative antiquarian whom he prized higher than Le Blant: yet he considered Ruinart credulous in dealing with acts of early martyrs. A pupil on whose friendship he relied, made an effort to rescue the legends of the conversion of Germany; but the master preferred the unsparing demolitions of Rettberg. Capponi and Carl Hegel were his particular friends; but he abandoned them without hesitation for Scheffer Boichorst, the iconoclast of early Italian chronicles, and never consented to read the learned reply of Da Lungo.
The Pope Fables carried the critical inquiry a very little way; but he went on with the subject. After the Donation of Constantine came the Forged Decretals, which were just then printed for the first time in an accurate edition. Döllinger began to be absorbed in the long train of hierarchical fictions, which had deceived men like Gregory VII., St. Thomas Aquinas, and Cardinal Bellarmine, which he traced up to the false Areopagite, and down to the Laminæ Granatenses. These studies became the chief occupation of his life; they led to his excommunication in 1871, and carried him away from his early system. For this, neither syllabus nor ecumenical council was needed; neither crimes nor scandals were its distant cause. The history of Church government was the influence which so profoundly altered his position. Some trace of his researches, at an early period of their progress, appears in what he wrote on the occasion of the Vatican Council, especially in the fragment of an ecclesiastical pathology which was published under the name of Janus. But the history itself, which was the main and characteristic work of his life, and was pursued until the end, was never published or completed. He died without making it known to what extent, within what limit, the ideas with which he had been so long identified were changed by his later studies, and how wide a trench had opened between his earlier and his later life. Twenty years of his historical work are lost for history.
The revolution in method since he began to write was partly the better use of old authorities, partly the accession of new. Döllinger had devoted himself to the one in 1863; he passed to the other in 1864. For definite objects he had often consulted manuscripts, but the harvest was stacked away, and had scarcely influenced his works. In the use and knowledge of unpublished matter he still belonged to the old school, and was on a level with Neander. Although, in later years, he printed six or seven volumes of Inedita, like Mai and Theiner he did not excel as an editor: and this part of his labours is notable chiefly for its effect on himself. He never went over altogether to men like Schottmüller, who said of him that he made no research—er hat nicht geforscht—meaning that he had made his mind up about the Templars by the easy study of Wilkins, Michelet, Schottmüller himself, and perhaps a hundred others, but had not gone underground to the mines they delved in. Fustel de Coulanges, at the time of his death, was promoting the election of the Bishop of Oxford to the Institute, on the ground that he surpassed all other Englishmen in his acquaintance with manuscripts. Döllinger agreed with their French rival in his estimate of our English historian, but he ascribed less value to that part of his acquirements. He assured the Bavarian Academy that Mr. Freeman, who reads print, but nevertheless mixes his colours with brains, is the author of the most profound work on the Middle Ages ever written in this country, and is not only a brilliant writer and a sagacious critic, but the most learned of all our countrymen. Ranke once drew a line at 1514, after which, he said, we still want help from unprinted sources. The world had moved a good deal since that cautious innovation, and after 1860, enormous and excessive masses of archive were brought into play. The Italian Revolution opened tempting horizons. In 1864 Döllinger spent his vacation in the libraries of Vienna and Venice. At Vienna, by an auspicious omen, Sickel, who was not yet known to Greater Germany as the first of its mediæval palæographers, showed him the sheets of a work containing 247 Carolingian acts unknown to Böhmer, who had just died with the repute of being the best authority on Imperial charters. During several years Döllinger followed up the discoveries he now began. Theiner sent him documents from the Archivio Segreto; one of his friends shut himself up at Trent, and another at Bergamo. Strangers ministered to his requirements, and huge quantities of transcripts came to him from many countries. Conventional history faded away; the studies of a lifetime suddenly underwent transformation; and his view of the last six centuries was made up from secret information gathered in thirty European libraries and archives. As many things remote from current knowledge grew to be certainties, he became more confident, more independent, and more isolated. The ecclesiastical history of his youth went to pieces against the new criticism of 1863, and the revelation of the unknown which began on a very large scale in 1864.
During four years of transition occupied by this new stage of study, he abstained from writing books. Whenever some local occasion called upon him to speak, he spoke of the independence and authority of history. In cases of collision with the Church, he said that a man should seek the error in himself; but he spoke of the doctrine of the universal Church, and it did not appear that he thought of any living voice or present instructor. He claimed no immunity for philosophy; but history, he affirmed, left to itself and pursued disinterestedly, will heal the ills it causes; and it was said of him that he set the university in the place of the hierarchy. Some of his countrymen were deeply moved by the measures which were being taken to restore and to confirm the authority of Rome; and he had impatient colleagues at the university who pressed him with sharp issues of uncompromising logic. He himself was reluctant to bring down serene research into troublesome disputation, and wished to keep history and controversy apart. His hand was forced at last by his friends abroad. Whilst he pursued his isolating investigations he remained aloof from a question which in other countries and other days was a summary and effective test of impassioned controversy. Persecution was a problem that had never troubled him. It was not a topic with theoretical Germans; the necessary books were hardly available, and a man might read all the popular histories and theologies without getting much further than the Spanish Inquisition. Ranke, averse from what is unpleasant, gave no details. The gravity of the question had never been brought home to Döllinger in forty years of public teaching. When he approached it, as late as 1861, he touched lightly, representing the intolerance of Protestants to their disadvantage, while that of Catholics was a bequest of Imperial Rome, taken up in an emergency by secular powers, in no way involving the true spirit and practice of the Church. With this light footfall the topic which has so powerful a leverage slipped into the current of his thought. The view found favour with Ambrose de Lisle, who, having read the Letters to a Prebendary, was indignant with those who commit the Church to a principle often resisted or ignored. Newman would admit to no such compromise:
Is not the miraculous infliction of judgments upon blasphemy, lying, profaneness, etc., in the apostles’ day a sanction of infliction upon the same by a human hand in the times of the Inquisition? Ecclesiastical rulers may punish with the sword, if they can, and if it is expedient or necessary to do so. The church has a right to make laws and to enforce them with temporal punishments.
The question came forward in France in the wake of the temporal power. Liberal defenders of a government which made a principle of persecution had to decide whether they approved or condemned it. Where was their liberality in one case, or their catholicity in the other? It was the simple art of their adversaries to press this point, and to make the most of it; and a French priest took upon him to declare that intolerance, far from being a hidden shame, was a pride and a glory: “L’Eglise regarde l’Inquisition comme l’apogée de la civilisation chrétienne, comme le fruit naturel des époques de foi et de catholicisme national.” Gratry took the other side so strongly that there would have been a tumult at the Sorbonne, if he had said from his chair what he wrote in his book; and certain passages were struck out of the printed text by the cautious archbishop’s reviser. He was one of those French divines who had taken in fuel at Munich, and he welcomed Kirche und Kirchen: “Quant au livre du docteur Döllinger sur la Papauté, c’est, selon moi, le livre décisif. C’est un chef-d’œuvre admirable à plusieurs égards, et qui est destiné à produire un bien incalculable et à fixer l’opinion sur ce sujet; c’est ainsi que le juge aussi M. de Montalembert. Le docteur Döllinger nous a rendu à tous un grand service.” This was not the first impression of Montalembert. He deplored the Odeon lectures as usurping functions divinely assigned not to professors, but to the episcopate, as a grief for friends and a joy for enemies. When the volume came he still objected to the policy, to the chapter on England, and to the cold treatment of Sixtus V. At last he admired without reserve. Nothing better had been written since Bossuet; the judgment on the Roman government, though severe, was just, and contained no more than the truth. There was not a word which he would not be able to sign. A change was going on in his position and his affections, as he came to regard toleration as the supreme affair. At Malines he solemnly declared that the Inquisitor was as horrible as the Terrorist, and made no distinction in favour of death inflicted for religion against death for political motives: “Les bûchers allumès par une main catholique me font autant d’horreur que les échafauds où les Protestants ont immolé tant de martyrs.” Wiseman, having heard him once, was not present on the second day; but the Belgian cardinal assured him that he had spoken like a sound divine. He described Dupanloup’s defence of the Syllabus as a masterpiece of eloquent subterfuge, and repudiated his interprétations équivoques. A journey to Spain in 1865 made him more vehement than ever; although, from that time, the political opposition inflamed him less. He did not find imperialism intolerable. His wrath was fixed on the things of which Spain had reminded him: “C’est là qu’il faut aller pour voir ce que le catholicisme exclusif a su faire d’une des plus grandes et des plus héroïques nations de la terre. — Je rapporte un surcroît d’horreur pour les doctrines fanatiques et absolutistes qui ont cours aujourd’hui chez les catholiques du monde entier.” In 1866 it became difficult, by the aid of others, to overcome Falloux’s resistance to the admission of an article in the Correspondant, and by the end of the year his friends were unanimous to exclude him. An essay on Spain, his last work—“dernier soupir de mon âme indignée et attristée”—was, by Dupanloup’s advice, not allowed to appear. Repelled by those whom he now designated as spurious, servile, and prevaricating liberals, he turned to the powerful German with whom he thought himself in sympathy. He had applauded him for dealing with one thing at a time, in his book on Rome: “Vous avez bien fait de ne rien dire de l’absolutisme spirituel, quant à présent. Sat prata biberunt. Le reste viendra en son temps.” He avowed that spiritual autocracy is worse than political; that evil passions which had triumphed in the State were triumphant in the Church; that to send human beings to the stake, with a crucifix before them, was the act of a monster or a maniac. He was dying; but whilst he turned his face to the wall, lamenting that he had lived too long, he wished for one more conference with the old friend with whom, thirty-five years before, in a less anxious time, he had discussed the theme of religion and liberty. This was in February 1867; and for several years he had endeavoured to teach Döllinger his clear-cut antagonism, and to kindle in him something of his gloomy and passionate fervour, on the one point on which all depended.
Döllinger arrived slowly at the contemplation of deeper issues than that of churchmen or laymen in political offices, of Roman or German pupils in theological chairs. After seeing Baron Arnim, in 1865, he lost the hope of saving the papal government, and ceased to care about the things he had contended for in 1861; and a time came when he thought it difficult to give up the temporal power, and yet revere the Holy See. He wrote to Montalembert that his illusions were failing: “Ich bin sehr ernüchtert.—Es ist so vieles in der Kirche anders gekommen, als ich es mir vor 20-30 Jahren gedacht, und rosenfarbig ausgemalt hatte.” He learnt to speak of spiritual despotism almost in the words of his friend. The point of junction between the two orders of ideas is the use of fire for the enforcement of religion on which the French were laying all their stress: “In Frankreich bewegt sich der Gegensatz blos auf dem socialpolitischen Gebiete, nicht auf dem theologisch-wissenschaftlichen, weil es dort genau genommen eine theologische Wissenschaft nicht gibt” (16th October 1865). The Syllabus had not permanently fixed his attention upon it. Two years later, the matter was put more definitely, and he found himself, with little real preparation, turning from antiquarian curiosities, and brought face to face with the radical question of life and death. If ever his literary career was influenced by his French alliances, by association with men in the throng, for whom politics decided, and all the learning of the schools did not avail, the moment was when he resolved to write on the Inquisition.
The popular account which he drew up appeared in the newspapers in the summer of 1867; and although he did not mean to burn his ships, his position as an official defender of the Holy See was practically at an end. He wrote rapidly, at short notice, and not in the steady course of progressive acquisition. Ficker and Winkelmann have since given a different narrative of the step by which the Inquisition came into existence; and the praise of Gregory X., as a man sincerely religious who kept aloof, was a mark of haste. In the work which he was using, there was no act by that pontiff; but if he had had time to look deeper he would not have found him, in this respect, different from his contemporaries. There is no uncertainty as to the author’s feeling towards the infliction of torture and death for religion, and the purpose of his treatise is to prevent the nailing of the Catholic colours to the stake. The spirit is that of the early lectures, in which he said: “Diese Schutzgewalt der Kirche ist rein geistlich. Sie kann also auch einen solchen öffentlichen hartnäckigen und sonst unheilbaren Gegner der Kirche nur seiner rein geistlichen kirchlichen Rechte berauben.” Compared with the sweeping vehemence of the Frenchmen who preceded, the restrained moderation of language, the abstinence from the use of general terms, leaves us in doubt how far the condemnation extended, and whether he did more, in fact, than deplore a deviation from the doctrine of the first centuries. “Kurz darauf trat ein Umschwung ein, den man wohl einen Abfall von der alten Lehre nennen darf, und der sich ausnimmt, als ob die Kaiser die Lehrmeister der Bischöfe geworden seien.” He never entirely separated himself in principle from the promoters, the agents, the apologists. He did not believe, with Hefele, that the spirit survives, that there are men, not content with eternal flames, who are ready to light up new Smithfields. Many of the defenders were his intimate friends. The most conspicuous was the only colleague who addressed him with the familiar German Du. Speaking of two or three men, of whom one, Martens, had specially attacked the false liberalism which sees no good in the Inquisition, he wrote: “Sie werden sich noch erinnern . . . wie hoch ich solche Männer stelle.” He differed from them widely, but he differed academically; and this was not the polish or precaution of a man who knows that to assail character is to degrade and to betray one’s cause. The change in his own opinions was always before him. Although convinced that he had been wrong in many of the ideas and facts with which he started, he was also satisfied that he had been as sincere and true to his lights in 1835 as in 1865. There was no secret about the Inquisition, and its observances were published and republished in fifty books; but in his early days he had not read them, and there was not a German, from Basel to Königsberg, who could have faced a viva voce in the Directorium or the Arsenale, or who had ever read Percin or Paramo. If Lacordaire disconnected St. Dominic from the practice of persecution, Döllinger had done the same thing before him.
Weit entfernt, wie man ihm wohl vorgeworfen hat, sich dabei Gewalt und Verfolgung zu erlauben, oder gar der Stifter der Inquisition zu werden, wirkte er, nicht den Irrenden, sondern den Irrthum befehdend, nur durch ruhige Belehrung und Erörterung.
If Newman, a much more cautious disputant, thought it substantial truth to say that Rome never burnt heretics, there were things as false in his own early writings. If Möhler, in the religious wars, diverted attention from Catholic to Protestant atrocities, he took the example from his friend’s book, which he was reviewing. There may be startling matter in Locatus and Pegna, but they were officials writing under the strictest censorship, and nobody can tell when they express their own private thoughts. There is a copy of Suarez on which a priest has written the marginal ejaculation: “Mon Dieu, ayez pitié de nous!” But Suarez had to send the manuscript of his most aggressive book to Rome for revision, and Döllinger used to insist, on the testimony of his secretary, in Walton’s Lives, that he disavowed and detested the interpolations that came back.
The French group, unlike him in spirit and motive, but dealing with the same opponents, judged them freely, and gave imperative utterance to their judgments. While Döllinger said of Veuillot that he meant well, but did much good and much evil, Montalembert called him a hypocrite: “L’Univers, en déclarant tous les jours qu’il ne veut pas d’autre liberté que la sienne, justifie tout ce que nos pires ennemis ont jamais dit sur la mauvaise foi et l’hypocrisie des polémistes chrétiens.” Lacordaire wrote to a hostile bishop: “L’Univers est à mes yeux la négation de tout esprit chrétien et de tout bon sens humain. Ma consolation au milieu de si grandes misères morales est de vivre solitaire, occupé d’une œuvre que Dieu bénit, et de protester par mon silence, et de temps en temps par mes paroles, contre la plus grande insolence qui se soit encore autorisée au nom de Jésus-Christ.” Gratry was a man of more gentle nature, but his tone is the same: “Esprits faux ou nuls, consciences intellectuelles faussées par l’habitude de l’apologie sans franchise: partemque ejus cum hypocritis ponet. — Cette école est bien en vérité une école de mensonge. — C’est cette école qui est depuis des siècles, et surtout en ce siècle, l’opprobre de notre cause et le fléau de la religion. Voilà notre ennemi commun; voilà l’ennemi de l’Eglise.”
Döllinger never understood party divisions in this tragic way. He was provided with religious explanations for the living and the dead; and his maxims in regard to contemporaries governed and attenuated his view of every historical problem. For the writers of his acquaintance who were unfaltering advocates of the Holy Office, for Philips and Gams, and for Theiner, who expiated devious passages of early youth, amongst other penitential works, with large volumes in honour of Gregory XIII., he had always the same mode of defence: “Mir begegnet es noch jede Woche, dass ich irgend einem Irrthum, mitunter einem lange gepflegten, entsage, ihn mir gleichsam aus der Brust herausreissen muss. Da sollte man freilich höchst duldsam und nachsichtig gegen fremde Irrthümer werden” (5th October 1866). He writes in the same terms to another correspondent sixteen years later: “Mein ganzes Leben ist ein successives Abstreifen von Irrthümern gewesen, von Irrthümern, die ich mit Zähigkeit festhielt, gewaltsam gegen die mir aufdämmernde bessere Erkenntniss mich stemmend; und doch meine ich sagen zu dürfen, dass ich dabei nicht dishonest war. Darf ich andre verurtheilen in eodem luto mecum haerentes?” He regretted as he grew old the hardness and severity of early days, and applied the same inconclusive deduction from his own experience to the past. After comparing Baronius and Bellarmine with Bossuet and Arnauld he goes on: “Wenn ich solche Männer auf einem Irrthum treffe, so sage ich mir: ‘Wenn Du damals gelebt, und an seiner Stelle gestanden wärest hättest Du nicht den allgemeinen Wahn getheilt; und er, wenn er die Dir zu Theil gewordenen Erkenntnissmittel besessen, würde er nicht besseren Gebrauch davon gemacht haben, die Wahrheit nicht früher erkannt und bekannt haben, als Du?’ ”
He sometimes distrusted his favourite argument of ignorance and early prepossessions, and felt that there was presumption and unreality in tendering such explanations to men like the Bollandist De Buck, De Rossi, whom the Institute elected in preference to Mommsen, or Windischmann, whom he himself had been accused of bringing forward as a rival to Möhler. He would say that knowledge may be a burden and not a light, that the faculty of doing justice to the past is among the rarest of moral and intellectual gifts: “Man kann viel wissen, viele Notizen im Kopf haben, ohne das rechte wissenschaftliche Verständniss, ohne den historischen Sinn. Dieser ist, wie Sie wohl wissen, gar nicht so häufig; und wo er fehlt, da fehlt auch, scheint mir, die volle Verantwortlichkeit für das gewusste.”
In 1879 he prepared materials for a paper on the Massacre of St. Bartholomew. Here he was breaking new ground, and verging on that which it was the policy and the aspiration of his life to avoid. Many a man who gives no tears to Cranmer, Servetus, or Bruno, who thinks it just that the laws should be obeyed, who deems that actions done by order are excused, and that legality implies morality, will draw the line at midnight murder and wholesale extermination. The deed wrought at Paris and in forty towns of France in 1572, the arguments which produced it, the arguments which justified it, left no room for the mists of mitigation and compromise. The passage from the age of Gregory IX. to that of Gregory XIII., from the Crusades to the wars of Religion, brought his whole system into jeopardy. The historian who was at the heels of the divine in 1861, and level with him in 1867, would have come to the front. The discourse was never delivered, never composed. But the subject of toleration was absent no more from his thoughts, filling space once occupied by Julian of Eclanum and Duns Scotus, the Variata and the Five Propositions. To the last days of 1889 he was engaged in following the doctrines of intolerance back to their root, from Innocent III. to the Council of Rheims, from Nicholas I. to St. Augustine, narrowing the sphere of individual responsibility, defending agents, and multiplying degrees so as to make them imperceptible. Before the writings of Priscillian were published by the Vienna Academy the nature of their strange contents was disclosed. It then appeared that a copy of the Codex unicus had been sent to Döllinger from Würzburg years before; and that he had never adverted to the fact that the burning of heretics came, fully armed, from the brain of one man, and was the invention of a heretic who became its first victim.
At Rome he discussed the council of Trent with Theiner, and tried to obtain permission for him to publish the original acts. Pius IX. objected that none of his predecessors had allowed it, and Theiner answered that none of them had defined the Immaculate Conception. In a paper which Döllinger drew up, he observed that Pallavicini cannot convince; that far from proving the case against the artful Servite, the pettiness of his charges indicates that he has no graver fault to find; so that nothing but the production of the official texts can enforce or disprove the imputation that Trent was a scene of tyranny and intrigue. His private belief then was that the papers would disprove the imputation and vindicate the council. When Theiner found it possible to publish his Acta Authentica, Döllinger also printed several private diaries, chiefly from Mendham’s collection at the Bodleian. But the correspondence between Rome and the legates is still, in its integrity, kept back. The two friends had examined it; both were persuaded that it was decisive; but they judged that it decided in opposite ways. Theiner, the official guardian of the records, had been forbidden to communicate them during the Vatican Council; and he deemed the concealment prudent. What passed in Rome under Pius IX. would, he averred, suffer by comparison. According to Döllinger, the suppressed papers told against Trent.
Wenn wir nicht allen unseren henotischen Hoffnungen entsagen und uns nicht in schweren Konflikt mit der alten (vormittelalterigen) Kirche bringen wollen, werden wir doch auch da das Korrektiv des Vincentianischen Prinzips (semper, ubique, ab omnibus) zur Anwendung bringen müssen.
After his last visit to the Marciana he thought more favourably of Father Paul, sharing the admiration which Venetians feel for the greatest writer of the Republic, and falling little short of the judgments which Macaulay inscribed, after each perusal, in the copy at Inveraray. Apart from his chief work he thought him a great historian, and he rejected the suspicion that he professed a religion which he did not believe. He even fancied that the manuscript, which in fact was forwarded with much secrecy to Archbishop Abbot, was published against his will. The intermediate seekers, who seem to skirt the border, such as Grotius, Ussher, Praetorius, and the other celebrated Venetian, De Dominis, interested him deeply, in connection with the subject of Irenics, and the religious problem was part motive of his incessant study of Shakespeare, both in early life, and when he meditated joining in the debate between Simpson, Rio, Bernays, and the Edinburgh Review.
His estimate of his own work was low. He wished to be remembered as a man who had written certain books, but who had not written many more. His collections constantly prompted new and attractive schemes, but his way was strewn with promise unperformed, and abandoned from want of concentration. He would not write with imperfect materials, and to him the materials were always imperfect. Perpetually engaged in going over his own life and reconsidering his conclusions, he was not depressed by unfinished work. When a sanguine friend hoped that all the contents of his hundred note-books would come into use, he answered that perhaps they might, if he lived for a hundred and fifty years. He seldom wrote a book without compulsion, or the aid of energetic assistants. The account of mediæval sects, dated 1890, was on the stocks for half a century. The discourse on the Templars, delivered at his last appearance in public, had been always before him since a conversation with Michelet about the year 1841. Fifty-six years lay between his text to the Paradiso of Cornelius and his last return to Dante.
When he began to fix his mind on the constitutional history of the Church, he proposed to write, first, on the times of Innocent XI. It was the age he knew best, in which there was most interest, most material, most ability, when divines were national classics, and presented many distinct types of religious thought, when biblical and historical science was founded, and Catholicism was presented in its most winning guise. The character of Odescalchi impressed him, by his earnestness in sustaining a strict morality. Fragments of this projected work reappeared in his lectures on Louis XIV., and in his last publication on the Casuists. The lectures betray the decline of the tranquil idealism which had been the admiration and despair of friends. Opposition to Rome had made him, like his ultramontane allies in France, more indulgent to the ancient Gallican enemy. He now had to expose the vice of that system, which never roused the king’s conscience, and served for sixty years, from the remonstrance of Caussin to the anonymous warning of Fénelon, as the convenient sanction of absolutism. In the work on seventeeth-century ethics, which is his farthest, the moral point of view prevails over every other, and conscience usurps the place of theology, canon law, and scholarship. This was his tribute to a new phase of literature, the last he was to see, which was beginning to put ethical knowledge above metaphysics and politics, as the central range of human progress. Morality, veracity, the proper atmosphere of ideal history, became the paramount interest.
When he was proposed for a degree, the most eloquent lips at Oxford, silenced for ever whilst I write this page, pointed to his excellence in those things which are the merit of Germans. “Quaecunque in Germanorum indole admiranda atque imitanda fere censemus, ea in Doellingero maxime splendent.” The patriotic quality was recognised in the address of the Berlin professors, who say that by upholding the independence of the national thought, whilst he enriched it with the best treasure of other lands, he realised the ideal of the historian. He became more German in extreme old age, and less impressive in his idiomatic French and English than in his own language. The lamentations of men he thought good judges, Mazade and Taine, and the first of literary critics, Montégut, diluted somewhat his admiration for the country of St. Bernard and Bossuet. In spite of politics, his feeling for English character, for the moral quality of English literature, never changed; and he told his own people that their faults are not only very near indeed to their virtues, but are sometimes more apparent to the observer. The belief in the fixity and influence of national type, confirmed by his authorities, Ganganelli and Möhler, continued to determine his judgments. In his last letter to Mr. Gladstone, he illustrated the Irish question by means of a chronicle describing Ireland a thousand years ago.
Everybody has felt that his power was out of proportion to his work, and that he knew too much to write. It was so much better to hear him than to read all his books, that the memory of what he was will pass away with the children whom he loved. Hefele called him the first theologian in Germany, and Höfler said that he surpassed all men in the knowledge of historical literature; but Hefele was the bishop of his predilection, and Höfler had been fifty years his friend, and is the last survivor of the group which once made Munich the capital of citramontane Catholicity. Martensen, the most brilliant of Episcopalian divines, describes him as he talked with equal knowledge and certainty of every age, and understood all characters and all situations as if he had lived in the midst of them. The best ecclesiastical historian now living is the fittest judge of the great ecclesiastical historian who is dead. Harnack has assigned causes which limited his greatness as a writer, perhaps even as a thinker; but he has declared that no man had the same knowledge and intelligence of history in general, and of religious history which is its most essential element, and he affirms, what some have doubted, that he possessed the rare faculty of entering into alien thought. None of those who knew Professor Döllinger best, who knew him in the third quarter of the century, to which he belonged by the full fruition of his powers and the completeness of his knowledge, will ever qualify these judgments. It is right to add that, in spite of boundless reading, there was no lumber in his mind, and in spite of his classical learning, little ornament. Among the men to be commemorated here, he stands alone. Throughout the measureless distance which he traversed, his movement was against his wishes, in pursuit of no purpose, in obedience to no theory, under no attraction but historical research alone. It was given to him to form his philosophy of history on the largest induction ever available to man; and whilst he owed more to divinity than any other historian, he owed more to history than any other divine.
[1 ]English Historical Review, 1890.